Latin America In Two Months. Sky high Andean cities, Caribbean beaches, rainforest villages, and more hours traveling by bus than I care to count. We’ve been ticking off the days for months now, and it’s finally almost here. On April 29th we will start our two month adventure through Latin America. To be fair, we are really only visiting six countries in Latin America, which is still probably a lot for two months, but we’re going for it. Starting as far south as Santiago, Chile (where we are currently living) and heading north until we reach Havana, Cuba. We’ll be sharing updates and pictures along the way here, so be sure to check back to see what we’re up to. But before it all starts, here is our (very) rough itinerary, plans, and expectations for the next two months.
Our first stop will be La Paz, Bolivia. We’ll be flying in from Santiago (about 520 m above sea level) to La Paz (3,640 m above sea level), so I’m expecting the initial arrival to be interesting to say the least. Rumor has it they have oxygen tanks in the airport and people getting off planes seem to be walking in slow motion. If oxygen masks aren’t your thing, you can always go for the traditional altitude sickness remedy – stick a wad of coca leaves in your lip. We’ll see how it goes…
I’m expecting La Paz to be breathtaking — not just for the altitude. It is situated in a sort of “bowl” in the middle of the Andes. The great part is that the views will be amazing. The not-so-great part is that basically any direction you walk will be uphill.
Cholita wrestling. Like Mexican lucha libre. But with local women. In traditional dress.
Witches market. Shrunken heads and llama fetuses? Down.
Lake Titicaca (Copacabana and Isla del Sol). Because why not visit the world’s highest altitude lake and the supposed birthplace of the sun?
After visiting the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, we will cross the border over into Peru. Maybe explore the lake a bit more and then head north. I really don’t know what to expect from Peru other than great food and long bus rides. I think we’ll be eating a lot of ceviche and arroz chaufan, then hibernating on multiple 24 hour buses. Because of how long and mountainous of a country Peru is, we will not be able to see the whole country this time around. One of the few flights instead of buses we will take will be in Peru, flying from Cusco or possibly Lima to somewhere near the northern border with Ecuador.
Lake Titicaca. Stay in Puno for a night and day-trip out to the famous floating reed islands and see the other side of the lake.
Arequipa. Again, not sure what this city holds for us, but looking forward to volcanoes, more UNESCO World Heritages Sites, and slightly lower altitudes
Cusco. So much history and also a lot of tourists. I’m excited to see the colonial city center, which is meant to be on of the best preserved in Latin America.
Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu. I don’t have the highest expectations of Aguas Calientes since it’s basically just the jump off point for Machu Picchu, but I’m sure Machu Picchu won’t disappoint even if it is overrun with tourists.
Mancora. Beeeeaaaaccchhhh! Finally! Here I’ll definitely be in my element. Hanging out in the salt and sand all day is all I need.
Before I continue, I’m going to hand these next three destinations over to Raul so he can give his unbiased expectations of Ecuador and Colombia, since I am clearly already obsessed with them both from previous trips. He’ll also cover Cuba because he’s pretty pumped about it.
After crossing the border in northern Peru, we enter our third country on our trip. Ecuador will probably be one of our longest visits, where we expect to spend some good two or three weeks exploring its rich diversity. Our main destinations will be Baños, Guayaquil, Montañita, and of course Quito. This will be my first experience in the extreme heat and humidity, especially when we hit the jungle and the beach. Although it might seem a little intense, I definitely look forward to it especially since fall has officially begun in Santiago, Chile. I will definitely appreciate getting back to warmer weather.
Montañita/beach towns. Montañita must be some sort of not-so-hidden gem in Latin America because I have met an incredibly large number of people who has visited this 1,000-person town. I expect $2 (or less) mojitos and laying on the beach all day – which is more than enough for me.
Baños. Located almost in the center of the country, Baños is a tiny town wedged in between the Sangay and Llanganates National Parks. Baños got its name from its natural hot springs. Nowadays there are several thermal baths which we will definitely be sure to try. It’s also the perfect destination for action sports, such as kayaking and rafting.
Quito. The capital of Ecuador has the best preserved historical center in the American continent and it is considered Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It’s full of colonial buildings and museums, so I am definitely looking forward to visiting it. We will also check out the “mitad del mundo” (equator) and get some drinks at Plaza Foch, one of the hottest spots in Quito’s nightlife.
Colombia will be our fourth destination and my first time ever swimming in Caribbean waters. We will step out of the heat and sweat for a few days during our stay in the cold and rainy Bogota. We will visit the fascinating Medellin and then head towards Cartagena, Santa Marta, and Barranquilla, on the coast.
Parque Tayrona. The gem of our Colombian trip. After a 2 hour or so hike through the jungle, we will be arriving at Cabo San Juan de Guía where we will spend the night camping on the beach.
Islands. The Colombian coast is surrounded by numerous small islands. We expect to take any of the boats from Cartagena or Santa Marta and spend a couple of days taking day-trips to these tiny, paradisiacal islands.
Cartagena. One of the places I look forward to most on our trip, along with Havana in Cuba. Cartagena de Indias is a colonial city by the Caribbean ocean. Its history is strongly related to the commercial trade with Europe during the Spanish Colony, which made it a target for pirates and invaders. Home of multiple naval battles, it is the most fortified city in the Caribbean.
Coffee. For a coffee lover like me, spending a few days in the Coffee Region where you can have freshly harvested coffee, from the field to your mug sounds like heaven on earth.
Medellin. The capital of Antioquia and home of my favorite Colombian accent. Medellin is also going to be our departure point for our next destination: Havana.
The city I am from is called a long lost brother of Havana. Remember the James Bond movie Die Another Day that takes place in Havana? Well, it actually doesn’t. Traveling to Cuba is often also considered as traveling in time. I expect something like what I experienced in Buenos Aires, only in a more extreme way. I feel like we are going to be there just in time to experience it in its full essence, especially now that it seems like Cuba its going to change forever.
Havana. I feel like I will be meeting a distant relative, Havana is definitely my top destination on the trip. Havana has a well-preserved downtown area and very rich, diverse architecture all over the city. Cuba also has one of the worst internet connections in the world, and while this is terrible for Cubans, I think it is going to be a relief for me to not to carry my phone anywhere. Experiencing full disconnection from the rest of the world is going to make Cuba a bit of a retreat for us.
Trinidad. After a few days in Havana we will be heading to the Caribbean coast. Trinidad is a small colonial city in the southern coast of Cuba. It is very close to several beaches that hopefully won’t be crowded by tourists like us.
Beaches. The most famous beaches in Cuba are located in the southern (Caribbean) coast. However, we will spend most of our time in the northern coast of Cuba and we are planning on avoiding overcrowded destinations such as Varadero. That being said, we are hoping to visit Playas del Este or Santa María del Mar, as well as the beaches in Trinidad mentioned above.
Mojitos. Rum is my signature drink and Cuba is well-known for its rum tradition. I will make sure to go on a Mojito-tasting tour around Havana.
To finish up we have Mexico…kind of. We have a 12 hour layover in Mexico City before returning to Colombia that we plan to take full advantage of. Even though we’ll probably spend about half of that time sitting in Mexico City’s infamous traffic, I’m confident it will be worth it. If only for the delicious carnita tacos that await us. I’m expecting to become rather attached pretty immediately. I’ve visited northern Mexico a few times with my family and was hooked from the beginning. Some combination of the people, food, and just general atmosphere really draws you in. Without spending much time there, Mexico is one of those places I would have no problem moving to tomorrow. Needless to say, 12 hours will not be enough and Mexico is at the top of my list to return to one day soon.
Mexico City highlights:
Street tacos. Our trusted Mexican taco provider here in Chile has advised us to find the dirtiest stand with the longest line. I’ll report back on how that goes.
Zocalo. The main plaza in Mexico City and home to the Cathedral, National Palace, etc. It was once the ceremonial center for the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and definitely a top priority.
Chapultepec Castle. It might be pushing it trying to get this in during our layover, but the only royal castle in Latin America is worth the effort.
Whew. Yep! All that in two months. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, all that stuff. First stop Bolivia! Chau Chile!
Got any tips or suggestions for other things we must see and do? Let us know in the comments!